Eliot Spitzer had been a candidate for comptroller of New York City for all of about two seconds before the first sock joke of the campaign made its debut. At a supposed “signature-gathering event” in Union Square on Monday—really, an excuse to get mobbed by the press, which is what happened—a heckler shouted at Spitzer, “Did you leave your black socks on!?!” And so it began.
The next day, the New York Post, as is its wont, ran an editorial entitled “Socks Appeal,” and Post columnist Andrea Peyser noted Spitzer’s “unfortunate wardrobe choices (black knee socks!)” in her column. On Wednesday night, Slate’s Dave Weigel quipped on Twitter, “Did Spitzer leave his socks on when he read these poll numbers?” Sean Hannity suggested that, over at MSNBC, “a thrill is going up their black socks”—a Spitzer-Chris Matthews double-whammy.
For those of you who long ago cleared room in your brains for more important things, what these jokes are alluding to is the former governor’s predilection for keeping his calf-length black socks on during his sexual trysts with prostitutes. The intel, which came to light thanks to Republican political operative Roger Stone, instantly became an iconic detail of the scandal, emblematic of just what a creepy weirdo Spitzer truly is. Spitzer has actually denied that he wore socks during sex, as has the prostitute he patronized most frequently. But just this week, Stone offered to "produce former prostitutes who will all sign sworn affidavits.” (While everyone else is just having fun with the socks thing, Stone seems to have something of an unhealthy obsession with it.)
It’s not all that important whether Spitzer did or didn’t wear the socks. But let’s say he did: Taking into account the vast universe of bizarre sexual fetishes that human beings privately (or sometimes publicly) enjoy, wearing socks during intercourse—while probably not the sexiest thing in the world, admittedly—is just not weird enough to qualify as funny. In fact, it’s downright boring.
Consider a Reddit thread from two months ago, in which former prostitutes were asked for the strangest things ever requested of them. One person told of a friend who was “paid $2,500 a week to sit in a chair in clear pants and shit herself while this guy watched her and jerked off.” Another woman recalled a client who “asked me to bite his neck and pinch his nipples while he jacked off” and “whimpered a lot and called me ‘mommy.’" A current prostitute said she is regularly paid $600 to act like a cat for an afternoon—dressing like a cat, purring like a cat, defecating in the backyard like a cat—before her john will have sex with her. Somewhere in America, there’s probably someone who makes his escort reenact the climactic courtroom scene from A Few Good Men while he rubs Miracle Whip all over his body. If Eliot Spitzer got off on anything this freaky, you could be damn sure that one of his former escorts (or Roger Stone), would have let us know by now.
Time for an overshare: I don’t wear socks during sex. I have no personal stake in society’s acceptance of this practice. But I’m pretty indifferent to the concept. The bare feet and calves of a man do not typically play an integral role in the average romp. I would venture that sex with socks and sex sans socks is pretty much indistinguishable. In fact, sock proponents could probably offer some fairly reasonable rationales for the habit. Maybe their feet get cold. Maybe their feet smell. Maybe they’re just efficient people who don’t want to waste precious time removing and reapplying pieces of clothing that have no bearing on the quality of their sexual encounters. Who knows? Who cares?
This “joke” about Spitzer’s socks was incredibly weak from the start, and it certainly isn’t funny enough to endure for over five years now. The fact that its adherents have clung to it with the ferocity that a high-quality calf-length sock clings to a leg is a testament to the sheer lack of actual kinky behavior gleaned from Spitzer’s dalliances with hookers.
By the way, Roger Stone had the giant face of Richard Nixon, his one-time boss, tattooed on his back. That is objectively weird.
When he’s not defending Eliot Spitzer’s sexual quirks, Dan Amira can be found blogging for New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer. Follow him at @DanAmira for commentary on socks and occasionally other things as well.